One of the things that I miss about living in the city is having botanical gardens, arboretums and public greenhouses nearby.
One day last week Matthias and I visited two public gardens that are near one another... about a two and a half hour drive to the farther of the two.
Rotary Botanical Gardens is located in Janesville, Wisconsin (which, nerd that I am always makes me want to sing "The Hero of Canton"). It's very beautiful, with a variety of different areas, including one called The Smelly Garden.
How could I resist a garden dedicated to smell (and with such a fun name!)? I had to touch and sniff just about everything, even getting down on my knees (while wearing a dress) to do so.
The formal herb and Italian gardens (which were beside the koi pond... something else I can never resist) were probably my other favorite areas.
I'm not very fond of boxwood (too smelly), but it was really lovely.
The rose garden was a bit of a disappointment (not smelly enough). It was planted with Knockout roses and other easy-care landscaping varieties, but I did spy a sweet toad hopping across one of the paths which made up for the lack of interesting roses.
The rose garden in Madison's Olbrich Botanical Gardens was more to my liking.
I especially liked the fact that it was created with a mixture of plants. It was not easy to stick my nose into many of the flowers (though in a few cases I maneuvered myself so that I could reach them), but the air was perfumed with the fragrance of roses.
My other favorite spot in Madison's gardens was the herb garden. One bed was created with all sorts of basils (and a couple bay trees).
There's so much more to see at both gardens. I look forward to visiting again sometime.
Another place we recently visited and somewhere that I hope to go back to is the Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm.
It's located in Decorah, Iowa, about an hour and a half away from where we live. There are display gardens as well as a farmyard with heritage breeds of livestock, orchards and hiking trails. The visitor's center includes a retail shop where you can buy their seeds. I bought some nasturtium and cucumber seeds and made a plan to go earlier in the spring next year.
Their mission is such a good one. Seed libraries, seed exchanges and the like are a wonderful concept. It's economical, good for the environment and it's fun. The Little Free Library outside the visitor center made me so happy.
The box on top of the library is for exchanging seeds as well as recipes and stories about the seeds. Totally awesome.
Interested in saving your own seeds? For many plant varieties it's very easy (some even sow themselves). Here's a good place to start for information on saving seeds.
Seed Savers Exchange sells seeds online, but if you're interested in finding a seed library near you there's a great directory here.
Visiting such places always fills me with ideas for my own garden. I'm constantly making a mental list of plants I want to add and considering different ways I can incorporate things I see. I've come to realize that my favorite types of gardens are those that mix vegetables, herbs and flowers. I also prefer my gardens to have many different colors, shapes, textures and scents.
My own garden is a constant source of joy. A place of contentment and peace.
Of inspiration and regeneration
and often lunch and dinner.
It's always beautiful to me, flaws and all. Even the simplest plants make me happy.
What are your favorite sorts of gardens? Do you live near any public gardens? If you're a gardener do you save seeds or exchange them with friends?